Braintree has a long and fascinating history - emerging from a Bronze Age valley settlement as an important and flourishing market town located at the crossroads of two Roman roads.
The 14th century woollen cloth trade brought prosperity to the area leaving a legacy of fine architecture and listed buildings whilst the 18th century heralded the arrival of silk weaving and the famous Huguenot name of Courtauld. Generations of this generous family not only provided the increasing population with work and housing but also donated many public buildings including the magnificent former Town Hall. The grand central tower with striking clock dominates the Market Square whilst inside murals by Maurice Greiffenhagen depict scenes of Braintree's history. A bronze fountain of a young boy with shell and fish, designed by John Hodge, standing alongside St Michael's Church was yet another gift to the people of Braintree. By the mid 19th century the opening of a railway line offered the opportunity to transport bulk materials, which led to the establishment of large engineering firms such as Crittall's metal window company and Lake & Elliot iron foundry. A full story of Braintree's diverse industrial heritage and traditions is told at the Braintree District Museum in the town centre.
The Warner Archive is a unique record of the history of textile manufacture since the 18th century and includes examples of woven and printed fabric produced by Warner's as well as examples produced by other companies.
In 1199 King John granted the town a charter to hold a weekly market. Today the market is held twice a week on Wednesdays and Saturdays, when the streets abound with colourful stalls and friendly faces. Discerning shoppers are attracted to the town throughout the year by the traditional and specialist smaller shops while bargain hunters are well served by the discounted designer village on the outskirts of the town at Freeport.